My name is Heidi Fahrenbacher and I now slip cast my pottery

My name is Heidi Fahrenbacher and I slip cast my pottery

I’ve tried to write, but nothing sounds correct. It seems as if I’ve lost my voice. I’ve written a few blog posts and have saved them. They annoy me. They aren’t what I am really trying to say. So, let me try again.

I put all my self worth into ceramics, this isn’t a new thing. I used to do this grades. A=I was awesome. B=I was a fuck up. I fucked up a lot. I’m not the only person who has done this. They say the biggest stresses in life are marriage, death, and losing your job. With the economy we have had since 2008, I’m sure a lot of people have felt this way and probably worse.

When I had my surgery a year and a half ago I had to quit throwing pottery. Let me say that again-I had to quit throwing pottery. Big deal right? In the grand scheme of things it isn’t. Even as I type this I feel silly. I feel vulnerable and exposed. I could throw and I was really good at it. I practiced so hard, for hours, too many hours. I got tendinitis in my left arm and kept going. It was fun, it was exhilarating. If I put my mind to it I could throw until I couldn’t move the next day. I felt so strong, so invincible. Others would comment how fast I could throw, how even, how thin. I could throw porcelain to translucency. And then it all ended.

I was lost. I pretended everything was fine. Slip casting wasn’t that bad-it sucked. I hated it. I felt so detached from the process. I felt like a phony. Like I couldn’t even call myself a potter. People suggested I have others throw for me. That just seemed sad. I could sit there and watch others do what I love. I tried to embrace slip casting. I read books, talked to others that slip cast, and went to a workshop. All I kept hearing again and again is slip casting is great when you make vessels that aren’t round. I’m a potter, pretty much everything I made was round. Great, more guilt-I’m a fraud.

And then something happened, I went to a show in Philadelphia in January and met another ceramic artist Nicole Aquillano. It was funny how we met. I knew her work and loved it. I was putzing around in my booth when she walked in and started looking at my work. I said hi and we started to chat. She said she drew buildings on her pots too! I thought-wait a second I know you! You make those amazing pots and you like my work, you like my slip cast crap? I started to tell her about my hip surgery and how I have to slip cast now. She said I slip cast too. It was like an explosion went off in my brain. She does? What? Her pots are pretty round and awesome!

Nicole Aquillano

Nicole Aquillano

My mind was off and running. I could do this. I could make this new creation process mine.

Since January, I have been making molds, molds, molds. I have made new mugs, wee cups, tumblers, and this week small plates, large plate, small bowls, medium bowls, and large bowls molds. Molds work if you have enough and my molds are starting to look really good! I’m taking pride in my molds like I did my thrown pieces.

In March, I was driving home from the studio exhausted-like almost falling asleep driving and I had another revelation. It’s time for decals. I can’t draw on every single mug and sell them for $30 each.  My hand was sore and I was worn-out. It was time to experiment. What I do now is sit on my couch with my sketchbook and draw and draw and draw. Then when I draw something I really like I go over it with a Sharpie, scan it into my computer, and print out my drawings on decal paper. It’s that easy.

This is one of my first vases with my decals. Here is Ernie approving the new decal style and my fingers are happy again.Ernie Approved

What I have learned is that changing forms with molds isn’t as easy as throwing, so I am focusing more on surface decoration, which is great! Here are some recent pieces:

Squirrel riding a bike, Buck riding a bike, Dog riding a bike, Cats riding a bike

Squirrel riding a bike, Buck riding a bike, Dog riding a bike, Cats riding a bike-decal drawings

Extra Large House Canister

Extra Large House Canister-underglaze pencil drawings

Round Barn and Silo-inlaid slip

Round Barn and Silo-inlaid slip drawings

As for my actual hip it’s ok. It was a major surgery that I played off as minor sugery. I’ve heard that once you’ve had surgery it’s never that same again and that is true, but I am in a lot less pain and have more range of motion.

When my 12-year-old niece was 5 she spent the night. For breakfast, I made her chocolate chip pancakes. She didn’t like them (she wanted blueberry) and I felt awful. I was apologizing to her and she put her little hand on my shoulder and said “Aunt Heidi it’s ok. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

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